How to Style Your (Ordered-in!) Thanksgiving Table 

Quick ideas for adding festive flair to your holiday

5 min read
jed owen

Let the best chefs in town cook your Thanksgiving dinner this year! Unfortunately, they’re not available to help you prep the dining room. But with delivery plus the following ideas for setting your Thanksgiving table with style and stress-free serving, you’ve got an epic Thanksgiving in the bag — literally. 

Organize your serving platters. 

The best way to instantly elevate the presentation delivery is to serve it in your own serving dishes. But you don’t want to figure out what should go where in the middle of your Thanksgiving party, so get out all of your serving dishes and utensils a day in advance and decide what food and serving forks and spoons will go with which vessel. Then write the name of each food you plan to serve on a sticky note or small piece of paper and tuck it into its corresponding dish. This way, you can see if you need to borrow, buy, or rent anything. Also, if Cousin Myrna is chatting you up while you’re trying to serve, these visual cues will help you remember to break out the special salad tucked away in the fridge. 

Gather garnishes. 

Chefs rely on fresh greens to effortlessly enhance the look of any dish, especially if the food is mostly brown (hello, turkey, ham, and stuffing). Do the same! If your takeout dishes include a garnish, you can ask in the notes for it to be packaged separately, to make sure it stays fresh through the reheating process.

Buy a bunch of Italian parsley and chives ahead of time. You can sprinkle hand-torn parsley leaves over monotone items like stuffing or tuck a few full stems onto the side of your carved turkey plate. Chives, chopped long and at an angle, add visual appeal to creamy, white dishes like mashed potatoes and to cornbread baskets. 

For desserts, pies or cakes might benefit from a dusting of powdered sugar or baking cocoa. A torn-open pomegranate quarter or sprinkling of pomegranate seeds can make for a glamorous Thanksgiving garnish, as could chopped toasted nuts and white or dark chocolate shavings. 

kevin doran

Set the table in advance. 

No need to wait on this one—you can set the table a day or even two in advance, provided you don’t have cats or other pets that like to navigate wineglass slaloms and leave a trail of fur in their wakes. 

Annie Spratt

Add easy seasonal table decor. 

Your Thanksgiving decoration ideas can be simple or elaborate, free or expensive, and everything in between. Here are ways to easily add seasonal flair to the table:

  • Use a jewel-tone tablecloth or table runner and napkins to add a little formality and pops of color. 

  • Break out the napkin rings, or tie napkins with ribbons or something rustic like butcher twine or raffia, and tuck in sprigs of rosemary. 

  • Think forager! Gather fallen leaves, pine cones, eucalyptus or Christmas-tree branches, and scatter them in the center of the table. Or forage in the grocery store for seasonal pumpkin squashes, pomegranates, or chestnuts.

  • Order small, low bouquets from your favorite florist (two or three for a longer table), ship yourself dried flowers, or grab a grocery-store bouquet, cut it short, and separate it into several small vases or juice glasses. 

  • Add low-lying candles that won’t obstruct table views.

  • Set out place cards if you want organized seating.

Be intentional with lighting. 

If you can, skip harsh overhead lighting and give everything a warm glow using floor lamps, dimmer switches, and candles. This little effort makes a big difference.

Strategize the way you serve your food. 

Ordering your Thanksgiving dinner via takeout significantly minimizes kitchen time, so you need only keep foods at their best from the time they’re delivered to when they’re served. Here’s how:

  • For delivery, select a combination of foods that reheat well (turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, stuffing, mac ’n’ cheese, roasted veggies) and dishes that work at room temperature (ham, charcuterie, caviar, rolls, salad, pie). The combo ensures you don’t have to try to perform synchronized-reheating miracles. 

  • Schedule delivery for at least two hours before your party begins, so you aren’t dealing with bags and boxes while hosting guests or worried about traffic and other possible unexpected delays. 

  • Place hot entrées and sides into oven-safe roasting pans or baking dishes, cover with aluminum foil, and refrigerate until you’re ready to reheat. 

  • Put out room-temperature appetizers an hour before your gathering starts so people have things to nibble on when they arrive. 

  • Set up a beverage-service station away from the kitchen, so you don’t get stuck bartending or maneuvering around guests while trying to heat and plate the meal.

  • When you’re close to ready to serve, heat the oven to 350°F and reheat your hot items. Reheating times will vary. For example, a turkey, which should be warmed to an internal temperature of 165°F, could take one to two hours depending on size. Afterward, it can rest for a few minutes while you warm other side dishes like mashed potatoes, which may require just 20 minutes. If you’ve got stuffing, see if you can tuck it in the oven with the bird; it will take about 30 minutes to reheat. Some items, such as creamed spinach or mashed potatoes, can be quickly warmed in the microwave or in a pot on the stove. 

Serve with confidence and style.

With the cooking left to the pros and a little strategy behind your Thanksgiving decorations, you’re likely to find you have one more thing to be thankful for this holiday: the freedom to relax and enjoy your own party.

jason leung